- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) — New government numbers give some of the strongest evidence yet that menopause hormones can raise the risk of breast cancer.

Rates of the disease leveled off in 2004 after plunging in 2003, the year after millions of women stopped taking hormones because a big study tied them to higher heart, stroke and breast-cancer risks.

From 2001 to 2004, breast-cancer rates fell almost 9 percent — a dramatic decline, researchers report in today’s New England Journal of Medicine. The trend was even stronger for the most-common form of the disease — tumors whose growth depends on hormones. Those cases fell almost 15 percent among women ages 50 to 69, the group most likely to have been on hormone pills.

“The story has gotten stronger,” said Dr. Peter Ravdin, a biostatistician at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston who led the research.

Some were skeptical several months ago, when Dr. Ravdin and National Cancer Institute researchers first reported the 2003 drop and tied it to hormone use. The new numbers, which add 2004, prove this was no fluke, said Dr. Julie Gralow, a spokeswoman for the American Society of Clinical Oncology and cancer specialist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Because it didn’t bump back up again,” it supports the idea that the rate has stabilized at a new lower level, said Dr. Gralow, who had no role in the study.

Brenda Edwards, one of the journal authors who is a National Cancer Institute researcher, agreed.

“Now we have a statistically significant decline” over three years and clear proof of a trend, she said.

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